Theatre review: Cinderella

Gillian Parkhouse is a pretty Cinderella and James Darch a handsome Prince
Gillian Parkhouse is a pretty Cinderella and James Darch a handsome Prince
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IT’S their 13th year together in the King’s annual panto – the Dame, the daft laddie, and the villain who’s never quite evil enough to triumph; but the Edinburgh panto trio of Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott have never twinkled more brightly than they do in this year’s sparkling version of Cinderella, with its magical pumpkin coach sweeping out over the audience at the first act finale, while a thick shower of snow falls over the stalls.

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh ****

It’s true that subtlety, and delicate local nuance, is never the name of the game at the King’s panto, one of dozens across Britain produced by the all-pervasive Qdos Entertainment company of Scarborough. The few Edinburgh references are grafted on to an all-purpose script co-written by Allan Stewart and Qdos executive director Michael Harrison, the set reflects a generic traditional panto-land that bears no resemblance to Auld Reekie, and the music –mainly a selection of forgettable recent pop, delivered in style by musical director Andy Pickering’s five-strong live orchestra – is so brutally amplified that ear defenders are strongly recommended, at least in the stalls.

Yet none of this matters much, in a panto that revolves like a sugary Christmas galaxy around its three main stars, and their hilarious relationship with the live audience. Gillian Parkhouse makes a pretty Cinderella, James Darch a handsome Prince, and Clare Gray and Maureen Carr a stylish pair of Ugly Sisters, cheekily named Nicola and Ruth; the tiny chorus line from Edinburgh Dance Academy is brilliant and adorable, not least in one of the show’s best visual jokes.

Mainly, though, it’s all about Allan Stewart’s beaming Fairy May and Grant Stott’s growling, Hibs-supporting wicked stepmother Hibernia Hardup, ready to head-butt anyone who gets in her road; and of course, Andy Gray’s inspired Buttons, playing with words like a comedy Samuel Beckett, producing occasional brilliant one-line jokes, and often soaring to heights of comic invention that reduce his co-stars to helpless giggles.

As ever, it would be good to see this ultra-brisk showbiz panto – which comes in at just under two hours, including a long interval – make space for a few more panto traditions, including a final song-sheet, rather than another round of anonymous pop. Yet there’s so much fun and magic to be had in this glittering comedy version of Cinderella, that to quibble seems pointless. So buy or beg a ticket, get in to the King’s big, merry auditorium sometime between now and 21 January, and you certainly won’t regret it; oh no, you won’t!

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Until 21 January